Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(5) by Connie Suttle
"Kid, I'd take you to my parents in a heartbeat if I had my way," Trace said softly and walked out of Ashe's bedroom.
"Yeah." Ashe wiped away a bit of wetness from his cheeks.
* * *
"We will wait until after the full moon and demand that he be brought to us," Wlodek informed Aedan Evans, who sat before his desk, next to Anthony Hancock. Gavin Montegue, Anthony's surrogate sire and also an Assassin for the Council, stood nearby, examining a few titles written in Latin on Wlodek's bookshelves.
"These rogues are multiplying, and we must deal with them swiftly before they recruit others to their cause. It cannot be helped that they lost most of their holdings in this financial crisis. Instead of working to regain their wealth, they are looking to take it, instead." Wlodek sighed at the financial state of affairs across the globe. He and many others had sunk a large portion of their holdings into gold bullion and had not suffered. Others had chosen to invest their wealth in other things. Fortunes had been lost—Wlodek knew this. Old vampires, being proud, would not ask for assistance. Instead, a few had decided to go rogue and take what they could from humans.
"And what do you believe Ashe might be able to do for you?" Aedan asked coldly. His face betrayed no emotion, but inside he was terrified. Terrified that Wlodek would take his child and break the rules, making him a vampire at age sixteen. That age was much too early, and Aedan had no desire for his child to be turned without his fully informed consent. Charles, Wlodek's assistant, sat quietly in a corner, typing the details of the meeting into his laptop.
"Perhaps you have not been privy to recent events," Wlodek said, just as coldly. "You have separated yourself from your family. While I fail to understand your motives, I have my contacts inside the community now and have heard much. Perhaps it is time for you to renew your acquaintance with your child. In fact, I instruct you to contact him. Tell him that the Council's jet will be in Corpus Christi in four night's time to bring him to London. He will help us capture these elusive rogues."
"It will be as you say, Honored One."
"Of course it will. Go now. Contact him at your earliest convenience. Anthony, Gavin, stay. I wish to speak with both of you."
Aedan walked out of Wlodek's office. Wlodek waited patiently until Aedan was out of hearing before informing Tony Hancock and Gavin Montegue that they would be working soon with Ashe Evans.
"Hey, Wayne. Wynter," Ashe nodded when Winkler's twins walked into the media room. The largest flat-screen money could buy hung on a wall, with theater seating in front of it. A bar and barstools were off to the side, with another wall built with floor-to-ceiling plate glass to view the gulf. Heavy curtains could be pulled if necessary to block the light. Ashe was sipping a soda and watching a baseball game with Trajan and Trace when Winkler arrived from the airport with his children and Ace, who'd gone along as bodyguard.
"Heard you were a member of the family," Wayne slapped Ashe on the back when he stood.
"Just a step-member," Ashe replied. "Inadvertently, since I'm an orphan and all." Being snubbed by his mother earlier still stung. Surely there was something left of him in her memory. Surely. Ashe was angry with his father as well—how could Aedan do that? It wasn't that long ago he'd said that Ashe was his boy and to never forget that. Aedan and his mother had done the forgetting.
"Kid, don't dwell on that," Trajan said softly.
"Well, sometimes it's unavoidable. I'm going to bed, Mr. Winkler. Nice to see you again, Wayne. Wynter." Ashe didn't bother walking out of the room—he relocated.
"That's just unsettling," Ace grumbled at Ashe's sudden disappearance.
* * *
"I've heard a few interesting things about you." Thomas Williams, Jr. was introduced to Ashe over lunch the following day. Weldon Harper, the Grand Master, had flown into Corpus Christi with Thomas, and Winkler had gathered everyone at his favorite sushi restaurant afterward.
"All exaggerated," Ashe smiled and shook hands with the Sacramento Packmaster. Ashe liked Thomas Williams immediately.
"Doubt it," the Grand Master broke his chopsticks apart and set about eating his appetizer. "Kid, we're among friends, here. You say we'll catch one of Zeke Tanner's tomorrow night?"
"I hope so. But things are wavering a little," Ashe breathed a sigh and stared at his empty plate. Just the thought of what might go wrong had his stomach tied in knots.
"Ashe, I'm not sure I want to hear about things wavering," Winkler was already dipping into tempura shrimp.
"No, that's not really it, Mr. Winkler. I mean, there's still somebody out there who's feeding him information, and now we might not get them, too." Winkler was worried, he knew. Ashe had informed the Dallas Packmaster that Tanner was targeting him, through a third party. Tanner wanted Winkler dead and Ashe knew that. Winkler didn't even question—he'd had rumblings to that effect himself, being in the security business. The Grand Master didn't doubt it, either. Winkler had been instrumental in the capturing and killing of Zeke's brother, Obediah. It was logical that Zeke would come after Winkler in some way.
"The good news is that the Assassin doesn't know the Grand Master and I are here," Thomas used a fork to spear shrimp. "We can help. All we need is to coordinate with the shapeshifter. I hope we can come from behind and downwind, so he won't know until we're on him."
"He won't know; I'll have you shielded," Ashe grumbled.
"Kid, eat," Trajan jerked his head toward one of the heaping plates of appetizers. Sighing softly, Ashe picked up his chopsticks.
* * *
Ashe couldn't help but slyly watch as Thomas and Wynter were talking out on Winkler's huge deck later. Dressed in shorts and a halter-top, Wynter was sitting in the sun, a pair of designer shades hiding her eyes as she talked and laughed with the Sacramento Packmaster. She had no suspicions—she believed Thomas had come to help her father and the Grand Master take down a rogue werewolf. Thomas was smiling and laughing with Winkler's daughter. Wayne, too, was sitting nearby and talking easily with the newcomer. Ashe lifted himself off the deck chair he'd occupied and walked into the beach house.
More spacious and secure than the last one, Winkler had hired more help to keep this beach house up and running. Ashe knew they were werewolves, from the Dallas Pack. One of the two doubled as Andy's assistant. Loren Bennett was short for a werewolf—only slightly taller than Jimmy, Winkler's former cook who'd died earlier in the summer. Loren was an omega wolf. Ashe liked him. Loren offered Ashe another soda as he closed the French doors leading into the house.
"No, thanks, I still have a little left," Ashe held up his glass. "I really shouldn't be drinking too much of this stuff. It's all sugar."
"Werewolf metabolism burns right through that," Loren grinned. "Shifters, too, or so I've heard."
"I have to expend energy in a different way," Ashe said.
"How?" Craig, the new cook, walked in on his way toward the deck.
"I just do," Ashe shrugged and brushed past Craig on his way toward the stairs.
"That kid is as strange as they come," Craig muttered, believing Ashe out of hearing range. Ashe heard Craig's comment clearly as he ran lightly up the stairs to his room.
* * *
"Aedan, our marriage is over. You said so yourself. When you pulled financial assistance away from me for that boy, and wrote the letter stating you weren't his father and wouldn't support him, well, I had little choice. I'm not his real mother. Someone here in the community told me that. I passed your letter to Mr. Winkler and granted legal guardianship to him. I have copies of the paperwork if you want them," Adele snapped at Aedan over the phone. Honestly, he'd walked away, why was he calling now? "Mr. Winkler seems more than wealthy enough to support the boy."
"Adele," Aedan sighed over his cell. "The boy has a name. We raised him. He's just as much yours as anyone else's."
"Not anymore—the courts here say so. And if you think you're going to get him back now, well, you'll have to show up in court. During the day." Adele terminated the call angrily.
"Honored One, we have a problem," Aedan Evans looked across Wlodek's wide expanse of antique desk.
"I heard," Wlodek growled. He'd listened to the entire conversation. "Had you consulted with me, I would have warned against removing support for the child. Were you overzealous with compulsion as well?" Wlodek lifted an eyebrow the slightest bit.
"I was emotional at the time," Aedan admitted. "I did not think my words through. Nathan tells me that Adele has taken her newly found single status to a logical conclusion and is now in another relationship."
That shocked Wlodek, although he used the vampire mask to show no reaction to the news. He'd promised his second child, after all, that things would go back to normal for Aedan in two years, right after Ashe's eighteenth birthday. This could seriously impact that promise. Wlodek wanted to sigh but held it back. Perhaps Flavio was correct and Wlodek had erred after all. Now, Ashe might be out of his reach if Weldon Harper chose to side with Winkler over the boy. Wlodek knew that all-out war could resume between the werewolf and vampire races if this weren't handled diplomatically.
"Charles!" Wlodek shouted. Charles was standing in Wlodek's office in seconds.
"Honored One?" Charles asked softly.
"Charles, how many rogues are currently in the Unites States?"
"At least twenty, perhaps more," Charles replied immediately. He had an exceptional memory, even for a vampire, and most vampires had amazing recall.
"Contact Gavin and Anthony. Have them ready to fly to the U.S. at a moment's notice. I will attempt to get the Grand Master's permission for Ashe Evans to help them clear out our rogues there, first."
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